by Christopher Homer
You find it strange how she opens the door to greet you. She smiles eagerly and touches your shoulder as you exchange inorganic pleasantries. Delicate fingertips, left shoulder. Smiles, added value. She holds your hand as she guides you to sit down on the couch. Slight tugging, right hand. She says, “Give me a couple of minutes, and I’ll be ready.” You nod. She takes the white envelope from you to count its contents in the back.
Her living space is warm, like a soft candle flame. The tungsten light bouncing off the wood gives everything a warm, brownish hue. White couch, now beige. “You can turn on the TV!” You do. Beige couch, now prismatic. The news is on. At least she is current. The ticker casually moves by, your eyes lock on it. Moving the same pace as the ticker moves, parallel vertigo. Click. Click. Click. Sounds of her heels reverberate off of the wooden floor, bouncing off of the tinderbox walls. Her white smile guides her way down the corridor to the living room.
“Okay. I’m ready.” You turn off the television and she grabs for your hand. Prismatic couch returns to beige. She turns off the lights as you both leave her place. Beige couch, now black.
You do the gentlemanly things for her: open the car door for her. A nice thud as you shut it, always a good sign of a great car. You cross over to your side, the amber streetlights ricochet off the dark hood, dotting the widower black matte. As your door thuds shut the new car smell hits. Fills the nostrils, the head, volatile organic compounds. The drive is smooth, streetlights: back, middle, foreground, back, middle, foreground. She places her hand on your right thigh as you drive. Tender.
Nothing is said, silence cuts the new car smell. Ding ‘The restaurant is ahead on the right.’
You do the gentlemanly things for her: open her car door, open the door to the restaurant, pull out her seat for her. You remember how much you loved the other woman on your first date. You are an extremely nice person. The woman at the table notices, her teeth begin to show when she smiles; just like the other woman. The conversation is light and amiable:
“Where are you from?” “What do you do for a living?” “What kind of music do you listen to?” “What books have you read recently?”
After the first dish arrives, and the conversation starts to calm, you notice how strikingly beautiful this woman is. Her black hair tied in to a side braid sweeps across the left temple. Chiseled cheeks, high cheekbones. Her lips, plump and pink. Her teeth, cocaine white, peek out from behind those pink lips every time you make a bad joke. Her skin, taut and radiant. Youthful. Full of collagen.
Not how you remember hers; caked with cheap makeup. Applied sloppily. The other woman laid in a box. Made respectable for everyone to see. You think about how sad it is that everyone will remember her in that box. Your dead wife wrapped in silk, pine, dirt.
This woman smiles again, picking up that you are drifting out of the room. “This food is delicious.” You nod.
By the time the third dish has arrived, you are feeling full, full of everything. Your mind slips and stumbles through sentences as you try to gather yourself. You don’t drink, you aren’t drunk. You are lost in thought. Thinking about her, how she is not like the woman across the table from you. How she is gone, but still makes you remember her in miscellaneous things.
The woman sees you slipping even deeper and clears her throat. “Hmph.” You snap back. You notice that dessert is on the table. Tiramisu and midnight colored espresso. Conversation stalls to an impasse.
Nothing is said. Glances exchange. Her cornflower blue eyes meet yours, sending signals of life. You smile, feeling the warmth of her intent. Your eyes lock as you reach for your espresso, the porcelain warm on your lips. The coffee, hot on your palate. A smile emerges from the burn. She smiles in return, her teeth casting a shadow over your wife’s memory.
The check finds its way upon the table and you reach for it. You do the gentlemanly things for her. You glance at the amount and move your leg as you reach for your wallet. Left leg, back pocket. Eighty-seven dollars. You put down one hundred, throw in fifty for her ride home. Three-fifty including the white envelope. You smile at her and hand her the server book. You get up and head for the door.
“Thank you for tonight. I left some money in there for you to get back to your house.” “Are you sure? You don’t want to come back?”
* * *
Christopher Homer is a writer with a degree in Creative Writing from Florida State University. His work has previously in the Kudzu Review. His photography and creative work can be found on his website, thechomer.com